This is purely a reflective piece. I left Israel a few weeks before the recent conflict in Gaza began. As a traveller and human being in this great big world, all I hope to do is learn and grow as I travel. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is extremely complicated and I am no authority on the matter. This piece was extremely difficult for me to write but ultimately I wanted to write it to give insight on how I was challenged and changed through my travels. 

3 months ago, I was questioning myself about whether it was right to travel to Israel. And by right, I mean morally. It’s something I often ask myself before considering travelling to different countries in conflict. Am I, through my travels, inadvertently supporting some kind of regime I completely disagree with?

I was very much ‘pro-Palestine’. From what I knew about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (which I admit was and still is limited) Israel was in the wrong and Palestine was the party wronged. That was that.

A lot of what I had read, heard about and learned completely supported this notion. Palestine is often represented as the underdog and the only victim in the conflict (to be clear, I’m not here to say it is or it isn’t).

After travelling through some of the area sandwiched between Jordan and Egypt, I realised that my views were pretty skewed by a black and white image painted by articles, news outlets and viral social media content.

We are often asked to pick a side – through imagery, headlines and stories that compel us to judge and condemn. There’s a narrative that we’re asked to buy into and regardless of how objective people try to be, everyone speaks, writes and shares from some kind of bias. If I’m honest, I think meeting a lot of Israelis abroad didn’t help my bias because the many that I did meet came across as very crass and crude. They fit the stereotype I had predetermined and it made sense that they were the “bad guys”.

I carried that bias with me into Israel. I had definitely picked a side.

I met a friend’s uncle in Haifa, a town where Muslims, Jews and Christians coexist fairly peacefully and there is a mix of Palestinians and Israelis. I found this interesting because it certainly wasn’t the story I had been told.

I travelled onwards into Palestine and visited Bethlehem. Here, I faced the infamous Israeli West Bank Barrier. After hearing about the impending wall between the US and Mexico, any wall was, in my mind, completely divisive (both literally and figuratively) and an unnecessary power play. I felt angry and saddened by its existence. There’s an image on the wall that calls it an outdoor prison and I felt the weight of those words as I stood there.

Israel Palestine West Bank Barrier

Another friend later told me that he was in an Israeli village that was bombed and that the barrier was absolutely necessary to end a lot of violence. Two sides I can understand and yet it still feels like a lose-lose situation.

I remember sitting in Hebron chatting to a Palestinian friend who lives right outside some Jewish settlements. I asked him who he believes causes him the most suffering. His answer? His government. An Israeli friend said the same about his. 

It was then I realised how little I really knew and understood and that decades of history and conflict could not and cannot simply be narrowed down to which country is right and which is wrong. The situations in the Middle East are complicated and complex and I cannot possibly know everything there is to know and grasp all aspects of matters.

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Like any good superhero movie, we have a tendency to distinguish sides. After all, there has to be the big bad villain to hate and the underdog to root for, right? In reality, innocent people – both Israelis and Palestinians – suffer as a result of the conflict. It doesn’t matter if the count of one outnumbers the other – they are ALL people and they are dying.

People are dying. There are no winners.

I have met Palestinians and Israelis who have lost family and friends because of this conflict. People who have become the face of a war they don’t agree with. People have friends and family that they don’t get to visit.

With travel comes a better understanding and more of an ability to see the whole picture. I am still reading, learning, listening and asking questions. I now see that things aren’t at all black and white and that each government is responsible for making some disastrous decisions motivated by greed.

Through my time travelling these areas, I felt a lot of inner conflicts and wrestled with my continually changing emotions, thoughts and ideas. Although it would be easy to simply say that one entire group of people is wrong and the other is right, I believe that it only causes more harm and division. Meeting people and travelling revealed a different side of the situation, the only side that perhaps should matter: the human side.

I’ve come to befriend some Israelis and Palestinians and they, like all of us, have so much in common. They just want to live peacefully. They want the freedom to live where they want and go where they please, not having to worry about what passport they hold. They also want that for each other. 

There is a lot of convoluted history that pretending to know all of the intricate details and deciding (as a foreigner) who is right or wrong is not possible nor is it my place.

So, after my time in Palestine and Israel, I have decided that I cannot possibly be pro-Palestine OR pro-Israel because either way, people are suffering under the notion that one is right and one is wrong. I am not here to offer solutions and I don’t think there is one that is ever going to appease everyone. What I do hope that the conflict will end so that people can live freely regardless of race or religion.

I welcome your views on this – whether you agree, disagree or otherwise would like to comment. All I ask is that you keep it kind either way. Thank you.

19 thoughts on “Through A Traveller’s Lens: Israel and Palestine

  1. Lil Kim says:

    Somehow religious differences both come to the fore, and yet are also overlooked, in the discussions about state relations. What divides people can impede as well as provide some hope for change. On my last trip to Jerusalem (where I was in a hotel on the Arab side) I ventured into a souvenir shop with $USD. The Muslim shopowner showed me a cross necklace. I bought another necklace, and as I turned to leave, the shopowner said imploringly these beseeching words: “Please pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” It didn’t matter to him that I was not a Muslim. I’ve been at a primary school 10 km from Gaza on the Israeli side, where a bomb shelter was being installed for the farmers’ kids–with Protestant charity aid$–after 100 rockets in a month had landed in the area. I was admitted to two hospitals and received treatment in Israel, where I saw Palestinian mothers and their children being operated for free by surgeons wearing kipas; the Israelis also treated wounded Syrians, who required reconstructive surgery. My cousin/roommate married a Japanese woman in Fukushima, where they suffered through the Daiichi nuclear disaster. The only ones who entered the disaster zone at a critical time were Israeli doctors, who said it was their Jewish duty to “repair the world” (tikkum olam) at risk of their own lives. Unless one has travelled to their part of the world, it’s easy to judge…missing the ‘human face’ of suffering and of love, which sometimes knows no borders. If everybody did their part with clearly caring motives, we might see a world of difference and perhaps less pain.

  2. Cristina says:

    THIS. Before I moved to Israel with my Israeli boyfriend, I thought exactly the same! And yes, 75% of the Israelis you meet abroad are rude AF, also partly cuz some of them are shy to speak English (though that’s far from the main reason). And yes, we are basically forced to take sides and I also did that before I moved there but now that I’ve met both (Jewish) Israelis and Palestinians, I feel like taking sides is impossible in this situation.

  3. Amy Fujimoto says:

    Wow, I really like how deep you get into the core of what’s happening. Thank you for letting us see it from your eyes.

  4. Anna says:

    It’s true. Nothing is ever black and white. It’s brave that you have openly written about this and stated your view. I am, however, very pro-Palestine and hence, for the time being, couldn’t travel to Israel. Israel continues to build and expand its settlements even though they are illegal according to the international law. This, to me, is unacceptable.

    • Amanda | LVV Travel says:

      Hey Anna. Thanks for your comment. I can totally understand your perspective and I agree with you that Israel expanding its settlements is unacceptable. But at the same time, I completely disagree with a lot of decisions coming from both sides like Hamas rejecting aid from Israel. I ‘d also love to know where all the foreign aid funds go. My Palestinian friend told me that a very popular charity filmed around his village to ask for donations and he has never seen them or any of the supposed funds since. I also find the anti-semitic stance through a lot of the Middle East also completely unacceptable and while that continues to foster and exist, there isn’t going to be a peaceful solution. So this ultimately reflects how I really can’t settle with being pro- either side because I disagree with most of the things going on.

  5. Sarah says:

    I appreciate your openness about your thoughts on traveling in this region. It’s interesting to me that you say your perspective or bias going in was Israel is the bad guy because coming from the US I think it’s the opposite. Obviously I agree that the situation is complicated and if you don’t know enough about it it’s important not to “pick a side.” And it’s great to go into a new place with an open mind to learning more. But at some point I think we as global citizens (and travelers) must eventually learn enough and have an opinion. Because otherwise things may never change.

    • Amanda | LVV Travel says:

      Yeah, I think with the number of Jews in the US and the USA’s relationship with Israeli makes bias from that side quite different. Although Australia tends to kiss the USA’s butt and follow along with things, I think our media tends to be quite pro-Palestine. While I agree that we should have an opinion and a view on things, I don’t think that necessarily means declaring a winner in a situation like this. What I would love is for Israel and Palestine to sign a peace agreement, Israel to remove all military occupation and for both states to guarantee the fair and equal treatment and opportunities for Israelis in Palestine and Palestinians in Israel. The only side I’m really on is the side that ends the conflict and prevents more innocent people from dying. I could be totally wrong but in my view, if the global spotlight was taken off the situation and all these other nations weren’t picking sides, perhaps resolve would come sooner.

      • Yuri says:

        Hey, occupation is ended in Gaza years ago (14), and they are still fighting. They have almost no connection to West Bank. Those are completely different people, controlled by a completely different governments. Not sure why are they still fighting?

  6. Mexico Cassie says:

    Thank you for writing something so thoughtful and honest. I have spent a lot of time in that part of the world and have an MA in Israeli Studies. What you wrote resonates with me and honestly, what I’ve learned as an adult, more than I ever learned in my MA: people are people everywhere in the world. Most people just want peace and to be able to give their families the best they can. Then we have a few less good people who ruin it for everyone by stirring things up and with dogmatic views.

    • Amanda | LVV Travel says:

      Hey Cassie, thanks for your comment. Absolutely – the majority really just want access to all of the basic human rights we should all be afforded. I feel that pride and greed is big problem at the heart of it. I’m interested to know about what you found in Israeli Studies – did you find that your course was quite biased towards Israel?

      • Mexico Cassie says:

        No. I didn’t find the course biased towards Israel. It bothers me that that is your question, surely that is a knee jerk reaction that you were trying to avoid with this article?

        • Amanda | LVV Travel says:

          I’m so sorry, I realise how that reads now and that’s totally not what I meant. That came from a place of genuine curiosity as I am curious to know how history etc is taught around the world (not just relating to Israel). I am always interested to know if and how courses around the world (relating to politics and history particularly) are skewed and if they tend to lean a certain way. I am particularly if the country it has been taught in was involved in any way and I know you’re from the UK so assumed you studied there too. Sorry, didn’t mean to upset you.

          • Mexico Cassie says:

            Thanks. Yeah it can be a touchy subject but I studied in a very left wing, first class British university so no, no biases. It was a very interesting course. Only four of us on it. We chose our own modules so we all probably ended up doing different things but no, no bias I’d say. It was an MA not an evening class with an agenda. The point of tertiary education is to open minds and have meaningful academic exploration not entrench in one view point.

  7. Maya says:

    I loved your thoughts and description of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It is so true that there is no villain/hero in such a complex situation. I also believe that not just the government is to blame but also the extremists in both sides. Hope somehow, sometime in the future this conflict will end and both sides would benefit so much from it.

    • Amanda | LVV Travel says:

      Yes – an isn’t it so unfortunate that the extremists get all the media attention – not just here but all around the world. It’s a sad fact but we often allow extremists to represent entire populations when in reality, they only represent the views of the minority.

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